|The train, waiting for us at Nyugati Station.|
|Detail of the roof of Nyugati, showing|
Eiffel's signature lacy ironwork.
We had to be up early as we had to be at the train station by 10. Tomas, our landlord had called a cab for us and he met us at the apartment to collect the keys. The cabdriver arrived a half hour early, so we found ourselves navigating around Nyugati Station, looking for the “Royal Waiting Room,” where we were to meet the train staff and our traveling companions. We finally had to ask a policeman and he pointed us in the right direction. Turns out we beat the train staff to the station. Fun Fact: Nyugati station was designed and built by the Eiffel Company. Yes. That Eiffel.
We all met in the aforementioned Royal Waiting Room, and if you have been reading any of this blog, you probably will drop dead from surprise when I tell you that the area was originally given to the one and only Sissi. I can’t seem to get away from this woman! It would seem that Her Holiness and her inbred Hapsburg husband couldn’t wait on the platform with their subjects, so the RWR was a gift to Sissi and Franz Joseph from their grateful and adoring subjects. Today, it’s a tattered shadow of its former splendor, but it was still beautiful.
This was our introduction to our BTF’s (Best Train Friends) and now, I shall introduce them to you:
The Texans: a youngish middle aged couple from Dallas, both UT grads. This we learned in the first 60 seconds. He was a corpulent attorney and she apparently had been an attorney until motherhood. Motherhood seems to have made her too busy to hit the Clairol because she had vividly red hair and grey roots. After introductions, they pretty much kept to themselves for most of the trip.
Andrea: our Train Director. Definitely not Julie from the “Loveboat.” Andrea is Hungarian, and pretty much runs the excursions and just about anything else that’s needed. Fun and interesting to talk to, but always making sure that everything was running smoothly.
Robert: Operations Director. Sounds and looks like Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear. Hilarious, but always watching everything.
The Rosses: A lovely, older Aussie couple we met at dinner the first night. Gaynor, Ross’ wife, became my instant friend when she discovered that I take Rob as seriously as she takes Ross. Plus, a little bit of gossip is always fun. Ross is a retired judge and they have traveled all over the world, so they always had fascinating and fun stories. Our dinner companions.
The Snotty British Spinster: of indeterminate age, SBS is a throwback to a bygone era when the sun never set on the British Empire and the brown people should be grateful for the largesse of the British Crown.
The Other SIngle Woman: Another Brit, she seemed to have been a friend of SBS, although we aren’t certain if they knew each other before or became thick as thieves when they met on the train.
Christopher and Elizabeth: they used their proper names even when speaking to each other. Christopher is an orthopedist and is looking forward to coming to a conference in New Orleans soon. Elizabeth (Gaynor says she speaks like she has marbles in her mouth) isn’t sure that New Orleans would be very interesting. One less tourist probably wouldn’t be noticed by the New Orleaneans. Elizabeth seems to be in nearly every one of my photos of the trip, FYI.
Nigel and Pilar: Pilar seemed to be a perfectly lovely Spanish woman, married to Nigel. Nigel went to Oxford, a fact we learned within a couple of seconds of meeting him. He did say that he didn’t do sport, but he did participate in some choral societies and an a cappella group. (Remember that fact. It becomes salient later in our tale.)
There were a couple of other couples, but we didn’t really get to know them and they did stick together.
Next: We Discover That We Aren’t on the Orient Express